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Equipment for Mountain Walking – Your Feet!

Updated on August 3, 2012
Walking Boot
Walking Boot | Source

Your Essential Equipment for your Walk

You can buy walking poles to give you support, fancy back packs to carry your gear, expensive GPS units to help you get where you’re going and totally ignore the one thing on which the enjoyment of your walk depends – your feet!

If you are climbing Ben Nevis or doing a long distance hike you will be on your feet for the whole of the day. Just think what your feet feel like after an extended Christmas shopping trip – and that’s on flat ground without stones to dig into and bruise your soles or boulders you need to clamber over.

There is no point getting to the top of a mountain and feeling like you cannot take another step on bruised and blistered feet – there’s no other way but Shank’s pony to get you down. So to help in your enjoyment of the day make sure you prepare your most important equipment in the right way.

First of all give yourself a pedicure. Trim your toe nails and file them so they are smooth and unlikely to dig into the toe next door. If you can, prepare your feet by soaking them up to 20 minutes a day in cold tea so that the tannic acid toughens up the skin. Doing this for 2 or 3 weeks before your holiday can really help. Toughened skin does not mean callused skin – calluses should be removed with a file and a moisturising cream or heel repair balmshould be used to heal any cracks in the skin. If your feet are in a really bad condition consider visiting a chiropodist some weeks before you go.

Don’t try to climb a mountain in trainers – the soles are usually too thin and the underneath of your feet will become bruised and after a while you will start to feel every stone you walk over. Proper hiking or walking boots are designed to have thick soles to suit the terrain, and give you support in the proper places. If you don’t fancy a walking boot then you can get walking shoes which are just as good, but lack the benefit of ankle support. Good walking boots are an investment as they last a long time. You don’t need to spend a fortune on proper footwear – more important than the cost will be the fit. Get a pair half a size bigger than you normally wear, as your feet will tend to swell during the day. Make sure you have a good gap between your toes and the end of the boot, and that the laces can be tied so even standing on tiptoe and banging downwards your big toe doesn’t hit the boot. If you can, try your shoes on in a shop which has a ramp and practice walking up and down – if your foot moves around in your shoe you’ll get bruised toes and blisters. If trying on at home walk up and down stairs.

Keeping your feet dry is important so sprinkling talcum powder in your socks can help. Socks should be thick and without seams. It’s always useful to take a spare pair of socks in your rucksack just in case that puddle is a bit deeper than you thought!

What you are aiming to do is to prevent blisters which develop where rubbing from shoes and socks tears the skin. There are several methods to try and stop blisters forming in the first place. You can lubricate your feet with petroleum jelly or liquid or powdered silicone, or if you think you’re particularly susceptible to blisters in a particular area – your heel for example - you can cover it with a blister pad before it forms. Wearing a thin sock under a thicker sock can also help prevent the friction that causes the blister.

On the day, if you do feel yourself getting a blister stop and treat it right away – it will only get worse. Your first aid kit should contain a sterile pin for popping the blister as well as plasters to cover it up.

Your preparation for your mountain walk will be to break in both your feet and your boots. Wearing new boots for the first time on a long mountain walk is not particularly advisable, so try a few hikes around your local area first. If possible, try a few hills, especially those with steep rocky parts. If you live in a place which is quite flat, don’t despair, but the more walking practice you can get in the better. If you don’t own a dog, why not offer to start walking your neighbours?

When it’s the big day and you’re on your trek, at any rest break take your boots and socks off if you can (as long as it's not raining) and give your feet the chance to get some air circulating around them. If your feet have started to swell, putting them up for a while will help.

Preparing your feet, getting the right footwear and taking care of yourself whilst walking will mean that overall your day will be far more enjoyable. There is nothing worse than feeling pain with every step you take – so be prepared so that you are able to appreciate the scenery and the walk.


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